Letters from Nova • June 2018
City Dreams
“The skyline above sparkled the way stars used to at home, and I didn’t want to ever hit ground. I was someone here. I was someone.”
A Room Away from the Wolves 
Coming Sept. 4 from Algonquin

 1. City Dreams
2. Debut Spotlight
3. Upcoming Appearances
4. Giveaway
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City Dreams
[a peek of NYC skyline from a rooftop]
Dear <<First Name>>,

Not everyone loves New York City, I was shocked to discover.

As soon as people heard I lived there, they’d tell me why they never would: too crowded, too noisy, too dirty, too intense, too ruthless, too expensive (that, I can’t deny). But not loving it even with its flaws? This was a surprise to me, a girl grown and fed on city dreams and the enchanted stories of my mother’s youthful adventures through downtown Manhattan. I made my dream a reality when I moved into a rent-stabilized shoe-box-size apartment in the Village—a dark, sad place with broken floorboards; a window sliver facing the airshaft; hissing, spitting radiators; and barely any space to breathe. But it was in the city! In the heart of downtown! And for that reason alone I refused to give it up for sixteen years… That is, until a few months ago when I moved away.

I’m writing this letter from the other side, from a new city in another state, from a sense of excitement at trying something new and having more space in which to live my life… and also, I admit, still in the midst of mourning my loss, the only city I knew.

Maybe you’ll understand when you read A Room Away from the Wolves, my new book coming out in September.

A Room Away from the Wolves speaks to the place I fell for as a child, a place so giant and glorious, I envisioned myself living there one day the way some children imagine themselves in castles or on space stations. I hoped against hope. I wanted it with everything I had, even as I knew that a small-town girl from the Catskills probably didn’t belong there, at least not for good.

On the dedication page of the book, you’ll find these words:

For my mother’s wild city—
the place that stole my heart, 
broke me and made me broke,
and still somehow made my dreams come true

All of that is deeply, blazingly true. I had my worst losses and my best successes in that city, while living in that shoebox. The photograph at the top of this letter is from my Village rooftop, no longer mine, where I wished for things and dreamed dreams.

None of this was planned for dramatic effect. I never planned to write my first-ever book set in the city I loved only to leave it a few months after finishing the last revision of the manuscript. I never expected to be gone before the book came out, so I can’t even claim it as home in the bio on my book jacket.

It was simply time. I could write a whole new letter about all I’m finding in my new and wonderful (and so much more affordable!) city of Philly, where my sister lives.

But please, let me say good-bye first.

At the end of March, we were cleaning out our New York apartment and leaving the keys behind. We rented a car and drove in for the last time, and I was perfectly fine. Perfectly okay. Up until we came within sight of Bleecker Street and started driving toward our block. Everything rushed back in that moment, all of what I wanted from this city, and all of what it gave me, every patch of sidewalk I walked, every corner I crossed, as if my heart were still there encased in the pavement.

Slowly we drove down Bleecker, and the tears started coming. I couldn’t stop them. The loss was an ache in my throat, a ringing in my ears. I felt like I was letting go of something I could never get back, but it wasn’t the tiny, terrible apartment or even the block itself, the piece of land. It was myself. The person I became because I lived there. Who am I if I’m not a New Yorker anymore? Who will I be somewhere else?

After we emptied out the place and left the keys, I turned and looked back. I looked up at the ugly awning that hadn’t changed in all the years I’d lived in the building. I looked up at the fire escape, the windows, the edge of the rooftop, where on a clear night the lights of the city sparkled and the tip of the Empire State Building called out that anything was possible and somehow, naively, I’d believed.

I looked back, and I said good-bye. 

I may be in a new city now, walking new blocks (and getting lost in a new transit system), but through A Room Away from the Wolves, a piece of me will always be back in New York. I had to write this book, and I had to write it before I could go.

Some days I like to pretend I left something on that block just above Bleecker Street... an echo, a ghost. Maybe if you walk past my old building, you’ll spy a quick flicker of her, the way the famed mafioso Vinny the Chin was said to wander the block in his bathrobe, since his mother lived right next door, or the way you can be caught forever online in a garish blur from a passing Google Street View van. 

The echo of me is still there.

Maybe a new writer will move into my old apartment and publish their first book while living there, as I did.

Maybe someone else will have their dreams come true before they can go.


p.s. Thank you for reading this letter! Keep scrolling for a recommended book, upcoming appearances, and a chance to win a signed book of your choice—including the hardcover edition of Imaginary Girls with the beautiful underwater photograph that's no longer on sale in bookstores!
Debut Spotlight
She smiled, meeting my eyes in the mirror. For a moment she looked wiser than any imam, looked like the amazing woman I hoped to be someday. Then she wiped off the dull-pink lipstick she had on, replacing it with a defiant cherry-red.

You chase the storm and I chase you, I thought, giddy as we raced downstairs to the waiting car.

Driving by Starlight by Anat Deracine
I'm deep into reading a debut novel I wanted to share with you, and I'm surprised more people in the YA community aren't talking about it. Driving by Starlight is the story of Leena and her best friend Mishail, two teenage girls in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, rebelling in subtle and ever-growing ways against the religious police after the Arab Spring. Most of all, it's Leena's passion and bravery and fierce loyalty to her friend that catches my heart, as I explore an unfamiliar world through the voice of someone who clearly knows it intimately. This beautifully written book—and Leena's life as a girl facing intense restrictions in Saudi Arabia—was not what I expected, and I feel my eyes being opened. 

Driving by Starlight by Anat Deracine just came out at the end of May—go grab it at your local indie bookstore, library, or elsewhere. And for more about the author's inspirations in writing this book, check out this interview with her on Hypable.
Upcoming Appearances
[typography of A Room Away from the Wolves]
A Room Away from the Wolves comes out Sept. 4, 2018. I will be launching the book in New York City on September 4 and in my new home city of Philadelphia on September 6. Details below!

Sun., June 24: ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans:

—YALSA's Coffee Klatch (9:00–11:00am)
—In-booth signing of A Room Away from the Wolves (11:30am–12:30pm)

Celebrate with me in New York & Philly! Book launches in both cities:

Tues., Sept. 4, 7pm: McNally Jackson (Prince Street), NYC

Thurs., Sept. 6, 7pm: Head House Books, Philadelphia

More details and more events coming soon!
[book spines]
Congratulations to... Janae, the winner of the signed advance copy of A Room Away from the Wolves last month!

This month, I'm giving away a signed hardcover of one of my previous YA novels... Imaginary Girls, 17 & Gone, or The Walls Around Us... winner's choice!
[covers of three books: IMAGINARY GIRLS, 17 & GONE, and THE WALLS AROUND US]
I'll choose one subscriber, by the intuitive magic of randomness, after Thursday, June 7 at 11:59pm Eastern to win one signed hardcover of your choice. You must pick one of the three books above. Keep an eye on your email inbox, as it may very well be you! New subscribers must be signed up by the cut-off time in order to win.

And if you're on Twitter, look out for a chance to win another signed advance copy of A Room Away from the Wolves later this month. Be sure to follow me at @novaren and keep an eye out for the giveaway!
[A Room Away from the Wolves cover]
A Room Away from the Wolves
by Nova Ren Suma
coming Sept. 4 from Algonquin
Pre-Order the Book

Bina has never forgotten the time she and her mother ran away from home. Her mother promised they would hitchhike to the city to escape Bina’s cruel father and start over. But before they could even leave town, Bina had a new stepfather and two new stepsisters, and a humming sense of betrayal pulling apart the bond with her mother—a bond Bina thought was unbreakable.

Eight years later, after too many lies and with trouble on her heels, Bina finds herself on the side of the road again, the city of her dreams calling for her. She has an old suitcase, a fresh black eye, and a room waiting for her at Catherine House, a young women’s residence in Greenwich Village with a tragic history, a vow of confidentiality, and dark, magical secrets. There, Bina is drawn to her enigmatic downstairs neighbor Monet, a girl who is equal parts intriguing and dangerous. As Bina’s lease begins to run out, and nightmare and memory get tangled, she will be forced to face the terrible truth of why she’s come to Catherine House and what it will take for her to leave . . .

[detail of the city skyline from the cover of A ROOM AWAY FROM THE WOLVES]
Copyright © 2018 Nova Ren Suma, All rights reserved.

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A Room Away from the Wolves cover art © 2018 by Sarah J. Coleman.